The Fourth Pillar
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its latest report this week, and it leaves no room for doubt. In a nutshell, we’re very nearly doomed and it’s all our own fault. With the world still reeling from COVID-19, its Janus-faced leaders bumble towards COP26 while defending a blatant Catch-22: apparently, the only way to stop burning coal, oil and gas is to keep on burning coal, oil and gas! There’s new coal under Cumbria and new oil off Shetland but exploiting them represents business as usual and surely scuppers any coherent plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the rate indicated by the science.
Amanda Maycock, lead author of the report says: “We’re talking about a reduction [of global greenhouse gas emissions] on the scale of about 5% per year sustained over several decades. To put that in context, last year during the global lockdown, CO2 emissions were reduced temporarily by about 6%. So, we’re talking about a similar scale of annual reduction…that’s sustained over several decades.” How on earth will we achieve that?
Agriculture accounts for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. They come mainly from animal husbandry and cultivation of soils. So for a start, we need to eat less meat and more fruit and veg, ideally grown organically. The manufacture of pesticides and artificial fertilisers for conventional non-organic crop production burns unsustainable amounts of fossil fuels. To have any hope of meeting Amanda and her colleagues’ target, the world needs to adopt systems that absorb a lot more carbon dioxide per square metre – such as the Eva’s Organics approach that integrates food crops with useful trees and shrubs. Our methods also strive to limit methane and nitrous oxide release per square metre using on-farm, closed-loop nutrient cycles that balance plant growth on the one hand with carefully managed decomposition on the other. We’re not sure yet if our use of homegrown fertility crops, green manures and organic mulches will actually lock up more carbon in the soil over the long term but we’re working on a range of methods that cutting edge science indicates might help. Also, as Sting might say, every move we make, every breath we take, we’ll be watching the rest of the biosphere.
In summary, our approach to avoiding climate catastrophe is built on three pillars: organic food production, organic nutrient cycling and organic maintenance of biodiversity. Another crucial aspect of Eva’s Organics that perhaps we haven’t banged on about sufficiently over the 20 years of her history could come under the heading of ‘organic community’. By that I mean the thousands of families that have supported our efforts over that time by buying our organic fruit and veg boxes and juice. Some customers with us from the start are still with us now. I also include the dozens of colleagues we’ve had over the years – there are ten of us working here at the moment – as well as the professional and amateur experts who are helping us with biodiversity monitoring and fertility management. We depend on our customers, co-workers and scientific advisers as we face an uncertain future and so this organic community must surely represent Eva’s fourth pillar.
Debbie and I are getting on a bit now and, while my 101-year-old mum still keeps us right, we inevitably think of the future of the world in terms of younger generations. Our youngest granddaughter Jessie – named after her great granny – is ten months old and still small enough to fit in a Medium Veg box (£18.50). Despite my best efforts, her vocabulary doesn’t yet include ‘Armageddon’, unless that’s what ‘dadda’ means. She can however, point at a bee on a bean flower and flap like a moth when the cat shows up, so I feel that points to a nascent love of nature. But the world as we know it has to change so radically so quickly – even before Jessie Junior completes primary school – that she might not get a chance to spread the word. Save Jessie Junior's generation: join the box scheme!